Bickert, Dr. Roderick N., Sr.
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Dr. Roderick Bickert passed away on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at the age of 85. Rod resided at Eastcastle Place in Milwaukee, WI, and formerly lived in Sheboygan and Green Lake, WI, Wilmette, IL and Mason City, IA. Rod was married for 61 wonderful years to his best friend and beloved wife, Sally Ann Bickert (nee Watson). Rod was the most loving Dad of Susan Bickert (Brooke Billick), Roderick "Rick" N. (Donna) Bickert, Jr., and Tim (Carolyn) Bickert. Rod was a proud and devoted "Papa" of Ben, Christopher and Daniel Billick; Roderick "Eric" (Brooke) Bickert, III, Samantha Bickert and Britt Bickert; and Carson and Kelsey Bickert, and was a great-grandfather of the late Roderick N. "Rory" Bickert, IV. Rod was the dear brother of Jock (Sue) Bickert and Annie (Peter) Scott and brother-in-law and dear friend of the late Robert (Jeanette) Watson. Rod is survived and loved by other relatives and the countless good friends and colleagues he had the joy of knowing over his life.
Rod was born in New York City and grew up in Philadelphia, PA and Baltimore, MD. He spent memorable summers in Cape May, NJ and often regaled his family with stories of his crabbing adventures along the ocean shore.
Rod lived with his family in Cedar Rapids, IA and was proud of his high school years at Shattuck Military Academy. Rod attended The University of Iowa, where he met the love of his life, Sally Watson, whom he affectionately referred to as "Gosie."
Rod was a lifelong educator and always a respected mentor to his colleagues and students. He began his professional career in education as a social studies and history teacher in DeWitt, IA, where he also coached the high school football team. He was a junior high school principal in New Hampton, IA, and then moved to Mason City, IA, where he held a number of positions in the Mason City schools, beginning as Principal of McKinley Elementary School and ultimately serving for eight years as Superintendent of the Mason City Community School District. Along the way, while he and Sally raised a family, Rod studied at Columbia University, obtained his Master's degree from the University of Northern Iowa, and his PhD in school administration and business management from The University of Iowa.
From Mason City, Rod and Sally moved to Wilmette, IL, where Rod had the honor of serving as the Superintendent of the New Trier Township High School District from 1974 until his retirement in 1990. While at New Trier, Rod faced head-on a number of challenges, such as declining enrollment, diminished state funding and the closing of a high school campus. Rod was deeply moved when New Trier dedicated a gymnasium to him in 2003.
Not one to simply rest on his laurels in retirement, Rod founded the highly regarded education search firm of Bickert & Associates, where he successfully led superintendent and principal searches for school systems across the country for many years.
Rod was an innovator in education. His singular focus was quality of education and he motivated and inspired his staff and teachers to provide the best educational experience possible. During his career, Rod served on numerous state, regional and national committees and associations dealing with financial and curricular issues. He spoke nationally on educational issues and led countless campaigns to protect local school districts from capricious funding cuts.
During his years at New Trier, Rod and Sally built their second home in Green Lake, WI, where they enjoyed watching their grandchildren grow up and spent many wonderful retirement years. Rod and Sally then moved to their home in Sheboygan overlooking Lake Michigan.
After his family, Rod's second love was the water. He was an avid sailor, sailing competitively on Clear Lake, IA, and on Green Lake and enjoyed sharing his passion with his family and friends. He was also an avid sportsman and hunter, enjoying duck and pheasant hunting in Iowa and Wisconsin.
Rod was a lifelong learner. He had an insatiable curiosity about topics ranging from philosophy, politics, and comparative religions to history and human nature. He loved books and was a voracious reader. Hermann Melville was his favorite author and "Moby Dick" his favorite novel. Not coincidentally, "Moby Bick" became the familiar family name for each of his sailboats.
As a man, Rod was strong in all meanings of the word, but always kind and caring. He was a reader, a writer, a thinker, a problem-solver, a mentor, a talker, and a leader. He always took the time to listen—to everyone—and truly consider what they had to say. He was an athlete—a wrestler, a lacrosse player, a football player, and a hockey player. He was a sailor, a pilot, a hunter, and a fisherman. He was honest, ethical and fair. Rod was always a gentleman—a trait he instilled in his sons and grandsons. He loved people and they loved him.
Nothing in this world was more important to Rod than his family, and he let them know that every day. As a husband, Rod was devoted, loving and adoring. As a Dad, he was unconditionally loving, wise, strong, supportive, and understanding. He instilled in his children his belief in the importance of family. As a grandfather, Papa was a teacher, a guide, a pirate, a storyteller, a coach, the person who encouraged them to do their best, but was always understanding. Papa was the person his grandchildren would never want to disappoint. He was their biggest fan.
Rod Bickert was a most loving and loved husband, father and grandfather and will be deeply missed by his family and all who had the privilege of knowing him.
Private family services were held. Memorials in Rod's name may be made to the
and the World Wildlife Fund, Inc.
Published in Sheboygan Press on May 15, 2013